The State of Missouri Basketball (Part Three)

So after yesterday's look at recruiting, let's peruse a rough depth chart for '09-'10.

2009-10: Depth Chart

Point Guard

Zaire Taylor (Sr)
Miguel Paul (So)
Mike Dixon (Fr)

Shooting Guard

J.T. Tiller (Sr)
Marcus Denmon (So)

Small Forward

Kimmie English (So)
Matt Lawrence
Another SF (Fr)

Power Forward/Center

DeMarre Carroll
Leo Lyons

Keith Ramsey (Sr)
Laurence Bowers (So)
Justin Safford (Jr)
Steve Moore (So)
Keith DeWitt (Fr)
Another Big Guy (Fr/Jr)

Points of interest:

  • The battle for backup point guard could be interesting.  Dixon is thought of very highly, and Miguel Paul has had an extremely up-and-down freshman campaign.
  • Who backs up Kimmie English?  I realize that really the SG and SF positions are mix-and-match a lot of the time, and of the 80 minutes per game from those two positions, chances are English, Tiller and Denmon will combine for 65-70 of them, but that still leaves 10-15 minutes for somebody else, either a second point guard, Bowers, or a guy like Ferrakhon Hall (or somebody similar).
  • There will be a logjam of interesting candidates in the frontcourt.  Ramsey, Bowers and Safford all have very distinct strengths and weaknesses, and with DeWitt and at least one more signee thrown into the mix, it's impossible to say what the minute distribution will look like in the end.

With this depth chart in mind, let's look back at yesterday's strengths and weaknesses to see what changes in '09-'10.

Stronger strengths

Theft

DeMarre Carroll is quite strong in the steals department, and Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence aren't chopped liver, but the fact is, a) a theft-heavy backcourt returns almost intact and b) Carroll's and Lyons's replacements, while not as offensively prodigious, are outstanding defensively.  Mizzou's harrassing defense should only improve in this regard.

Passing

When Mike Anderson talks about how he finally has the type of team he wants, it is most verifiable in terms of defense and passing.  Again, the outgoing seniors are very good in assists-per-minute totals, but the returning talent is just as good.  As generous as this current team has been with each other, expect the same in '09-'10.  And between Denmon, English, and whoever ends up better between Paul and Dixon, expect some solid continuity in offensive flow for years to come.

Perimeter Defense

Ditto.  Strong perimeter defense + extreme continuity in the backcourt = even better perimeter defense.

3-Point Shooting

Now, this one is not a given.  Marcus Denmon and Kim English both have very nice 3-point shots (English now has the exact same 3-point % as Matt Lawrence for the year), and they've been putting them in the basket at a higher rate for the last couple weeks.  But the fact remains that they're losing the only true "assassin" on the team, and while they've learned how to play without counting on Lawrence, The Goose is still the most likely guy on the team to pull a performance like the one he had in Stillwater, nailing 3 after 3 and carrying the offense for a good, solid 5-8 minutes.  But with predicted improvement from English and Denmon and the addition of a pretty solid shooter in Mike Dixon, we'll tentatively say Mizzou will be at least as good at the 3-point shot.

Team Identity

If anybody ever doubted that chemistry matters in team sports, just watch this team as compared to last year's.  Rarely has new blood been needed more than Mizzou Basketball needed it this year, and it's paid off handsomely.  In 2009-10, Mike Anderson's team will officially be comprised of 100% his own recruits.  He loses a solid team player in Matt Lawrence, a "glue" guy in DeMarre Carroll...and a wildcard in Leo Lyons.  Good Leo is fine, If there's a single guy on the team whose departure might help chemistry, it's Bad Leo.  But seniors aside, it's clear that guys like Kimmie English and Zaire Taylor are outstanding for overall chemistry, and with English taking even more of a leadership role in '09-'10, I have very high hopes for this squad's ongoing chemistry and identity.

(And the next time you start getting wrapped up in recruiting, step back and realize that if Mizzou had gotten either of the local guys at the top of their list in the 2008 class--Scott Suggs and/or Travis Releford, both of whom have struggled for playing time at their chosen schools), then they might not have ended up with English, the born leader of this freshman class.  It never quite works out like you assume it will.)

Weaker strengths

Interior Scoring

Of all the strengths I listed on Sunday, the only one that will clearly regress in '09-'10 has got to be interior scoring.  The offense will flow differently with Keith Ramsey, Laurence Bowers, Justin Safford, and newcomers roaming the post.  They've all got their own sets of ball and shooting skills, but DeMarre and Leo have still combined for 30.4 PPG this season.  No two guys on the above list are capable of averaging that.

Stronger weaknesses

Lapses in Testicular Fortitude

Whatever we call this category, it's all about learning how to win and not unlearning it.  The better this team does in '08-'09, and the more the freshmen contribute to that success, the more likely that high level is to be maintained in the future.  You never know for sure, but with good leadership and proven success, I'm very optimistic about the size of this team's balls in the future.

Pure Size

Well, this won't be any weaker anyway.  Leo and DeMarre depart, but as guys like Steve Moore and maybe a new recruit move into the rotation, Mike Anderson will at least have some options when it comes to dealing with one of the bigger teams on the schedule.

Rebounding

2008-09: Offensive Rebounds Per Minute

DeMarre Carroll 0.10
Leo Lyons 0.10
Keith Ramsey 0.10
Laurence Bowers 0.10
Justin Safford 0.05
(Steve Moore 0.11 in limited time)

2008-09: Defensive Rebounds Per Minute

Laurence Bowers 0.20
DeMarre Carroll 0.18
Justin Safford 0.18
Leo Lyons 0.17
Keith Ramsey 0.14
(Steve Moore 0.19 in limited time)

First of all, it's interesting to see some of the differences here--Justin Safford is rock-solid on the defensive glass and a non-factor on offense; Keith Ramsey is great on the offensive glass but only okay on defense.  Either way, though, it appears that Mizzou will be okay with DeMarre and Leo's departure.  Again, they might not be better...but they won't be worse.

Weaker weaknesses

Free Throw Shooting

Gone are DeMarre's 64.2% and Leo's 70.3%.  In their place are Keith Ramsey (29.6%), Justin Safford (44.4%) and Laurence Bowers (61.5%).  Yikes.

Natural scoring ability

This immediately becomes a stronger strength if Marcus Denmon and Kimmie English progress...especially Denmon.  He has shown a lot of explosive potential.  But until that happens, the fact remains that Leo Lyons is the only proven natural scorer, and he will not be in a Tiger uniform in 2009-10.  Plus, while Mizzou's two signees thus far, Mike Dixon and Keith DeWitt, both have their own strengths, neither has proven to have the ability to score 30 points at the D1 level or carry a team with his scoring ability.

3-Point Shooting

Again, it makes both lists.  English, Denmon and company might be pretty good at shooting the long-ball, but...with less interior scoring punch, they'll probably end up shooting more 3's...which isn't necessarily a good thing.

2009-10: Summary

So basically, Mizzou's current strengths will be magnified in '09-'10, as will, for the most part, their current weaknesses.  This team will already be deeper, faster, and more used to winning than the '08-'09 bunch, but scoring from the bigs will be the X-factor.

So what about 2010-11?

2010-11

Barring any defections, Mizzou will have three scholarships to give out for 2010-11.  I could be wrong about this, but I think the only major in-state prospect for this class is Hickman's Rock Bridge's Ricky Kreklow, a 6'5 shooting guard and the son of Mizzou Volleyball's Susan and Wayne Kreklow.  It's not a given that he'll end up with Mizzou, but for now we'll count him on the list.

The other big-name guy on Mizzou's recruiting board appears to be Phil Pressey, a 5'10 PG from Dallas and Rivals' #42 player in the 2010 class.  He has offers from Florida and Texas, among others, so needless to say it's an uphill battle for Pressey.  Also on the board: Memphis' Mardracus Wade, the #71 player in the class.  Either way, it appears that Mizzou will be spending a schollie on a point guard of some caliber, so we'll add that to the list as well.

That leaves (theoretically) one more schollie, and you figure it will go to a big man.  The only known PF offer on the table thus far is to Tarik Black, a 6'7, 230-pounder from Memphis.  It's great seeing Mizzou trying to establish a Memphis connection, and you have to figure gradual success from Laurence Bowers will only help that.

So that leaves a rough-draft depth chart of this:

Point Guard

Zaire Taylor
Mike Dixon (So)
Miguel Paul (Jr)
New PG (Fr)

Shooting Guard

J.T. Tiller
Marcus Denmon (Jr)
Ricky Kreklow? (Fr)

Small Forward

Kimmie English (Jr)
2009-10 SF (So)

Power Forward/Center

Keith Ramsey
Laurence Bowers (Jr)
Justin Safford (Sr)
Keith DeWitt (So)
Steve Moore (Jr)
2009-10 Big Guy (So/Sr)
New Big Guy (Fr)

I'm going to feel pretty good about this team as long as Denmon and English are manning the perimeter, but just how good this team can be will depend on a) either Dixon, Paul, or New Guy playing well at the point, and b) either DeWitt or one of the as-of-yet unnamed '09 and '10 recruits emerging as a very strong player.

Lord knows they have rankings for basketball recruits down through about sixth grade, so technically we could continue projecting forward, but two years is far enough.

Bottom Line

Bottom line: we knew initially that Mike Anderson's regime at Mizzou would probably go as far as this year's freshman class would take him.  Of the five freshmen, two (Denmon and English) are already proving themselves as keepers, one (Bowers) is flashing worlds of potential, one (Paul) has been up-and-down, and one (Moore) is a long-term project who might or might not put things together--too early to tell.  So we know that two of the backcourt positions are in good hands for the next three years, and if Bowers continues to develop, one of the frontcourt slots is too.

It appears that the biggest recruiting needs over the next couple of years is a solid point guard (either Dixon or a 2010 guy) and a solid post guy (DeWitt or other).  With that and plenty of energy guys (DeWitt, Bowers, Safford, Paul), the future should be pretty bright.

We still don't truly know the ceiling of what Mizzou can accomplish under Mike Anderson (NCAA tourney?  Sweet Sixteen?  Final Four?  Top 4 in conference?  Conference title?), but a 17-3 record on a team with 5 freshmen and only 3 seniors certainly makes it a little easier to be optimistic.

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